A Guide to EDR, NDR, XDR, and SIEM

EDR, NDR, XDR, and SIEM cover image

As the ever-increasing list of cybersecurity acronyms and vernacular grows, what cybersecurity tools are truly best for your team and meet your organization’s needs? To make sense of it all, let’s dive into security technologies used in the market today and the differences between endpoint detection and response (EDR), network detection and response (NDR), extended detection and response (XDR), and security information and event management (SIEM).

In addition to this blog, a webinar featuring LogRhythm’s Deputy CISO Andrew Hollister and VP of Field Engineering Jonathan Zulberg covers this topic in depth. You can watch the presentation or read this e-Book, “Alphabet Soup: Making Sense of EDR, NDR, XDR, and SIEM,” for a detailed transcript of their insightful discussion.

Differences between EDR, NDR, XDR, and SIEM

Cybersecurity solutions are constantly evolving to reduce risk and help SOCs modernize their defenses, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to security technology. EDR, NDR, XDR, and SIEM, are all solutions that help organizations mature their security posture, and each have unique functionality tailored to the needs of an organization. That said, some of these platforms have overlapping capabilities, which can cause confusion among cybersecurity professionals. Let’s clear the air and breakdown the key differences between these platforms.

Endpoint detection and response (EDR)

EDR security enhances visibility by collecting, correlating, and analyzing endpoint data. It helps security teams identify and respond to malicious activity occurring at an endpoint. Gartner suggests that EDR solutions must provide four primary capabilities, which include:

  • Detecting security incidents
  • Containing an incident at the endpoint
  • Investigating security incidents
  • Providing remediation guidance

Using EDR software, you can better understand what threats exist and what attacks are happening at endpoints such as IoT devices, servers, cell phones, laptops, cloud systems, and more. In the e-Book referenced earlier, Hollister shares an example of how EDR can work: “If a user browses to a malicious website and malware is downloaded, EDR software can stop a threat in its tracks before it turns into a ransomware attack.” The adoption of EDR software has risen because of sophisticated cyberattacks and the increase in endpoints across environments that make infiltrating a network easier for cybercriminals.

Network detection and response (NDR)

NDR solutions provide centralized, machine-based analysis and incident response capabilities to protect against known and unknown threats traversing across the network. NDR security improves visibility into network blind spots and helps identify what or who is coming across the network and what anomalies exist. NDR enables security operations teams to conduct rapid threat investigation across the environment and adds analytics and behavioral capabilities resulting in high-fidelity alerts for more accurate threat detection.

If you’re looking for a concrete example of what an NDR solution looks like and how it works, check out this YouTube video below that breaks down LogRhythm’s NDR solution and its functionality in precise detail.

Extended detection and response (XDR)

XDR is an emerging technology in the market, and definitions may vary based on the source. According to Gartner, extended detection and response (XDR) is a “unified security incident detection and response platform that automatically collects and correlates data from multiple proprietary security components.”

In layman’s terms, Hollister and Zulberg explain how XDR merges security capabilities such as EDR, NDR, and some aspects of user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA). It provides deep analytic and security capability to detect and respond to threat actors across the entire IT ecosystem.

Some professionals refer to XDR security as an “easy button” for an out-of-the-box solution that streamlines end-to-end threat detection. In the “Alphabet Soup” e-Book, Hollister makes a good point about this claim. To some degree, that is true, it does help with focused and targeted detections, but all security solutions still require the resources and skills to onboard and continuously improve processes. SOCs with limited resources can use XDR security as a powerful means to improve threat detection and response, but “easy” is a loose term to describe implementing and maintaining security technology.

Security information and event management (SIEM)

LogRhythm's SIEM solution

SIEMs are invaluable for many SOCs because it provides centralized visibility and context into mass amounts of data. It consumes data from all assets and security technology and helps SOC teams make sense of a sophisticated environment by providing a comprehensive and holistic view across the entire enterprise. By collecting and analyzing security events and contextual data sources, SIEMs enable security operations teams with threat detection, compliance, and incident management capabilities.

SIEM tools are useful, or even necessary, for organizations that must demonstrate compliance. Highly regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, and government must abide by certain mandates. SIEM tools help SOCs manage persistent data for forensic search and auditing, compliance and reporting, risk analysis, and operational monitoring.

To watch a SIEM platform in action and observe how an analyst interacts with the user interface, watch this SIEM demo that provides a critical infrastructure cybersecurity use case (inspired by real-life events!). It will help you understand more about SIEM functionality and how SOCs can use this type of technology to detect and stop a threatening cyberattack.

Commonly asked questions

Here are some answers to several commonly asked questions about the differences between EDR, NDR, XDR, and SIEM.

What’s the difference between EDR vs. XDR?

S&P Global’s market intelligence report, “The Rise of Extended Detection and Response,” suggests that “XDR provides threat detection and response capabilities that extend beyond the approach of single threat vector solutions such as EDR and NDR. XDR aggregates telemetry across the security stack, adding analytics and intelligence to interpret and correlate data and detect threats across the IT ecosystem.”

Essentially, both EDR and XDR are security tools that aim to detect and respond to threats quicker. The difference between the platforms is EDR focuses on detection and response at the endpoint, while XDR expands protection across networks, firewalls, and cloud applications. You can learn more from this YouTube video that provides a useful breakdown of EDR versus XDR.

What’s the difference between XDR vs. SIEM?

SIEM tools can be used for a broad set of security needs, such as threat detection, compliance, incident management, risk analysis, and operational monitoring, while XDR is much more targeted with threat detection and response. SIEMs can do everything XDR does, but adds additional capabilities like reporting, compliance, and operational monitoring. XDR focuses on a narrow set of data sources and is ideal for low-volume, high-accuracy detections for automated remediation.

I recommend reading Andrew Hollister’s Forbes article on the “Similarities and Differences Between XDR and SIEM.” It’s a great extra resource that explains why certain organizations may choose one solution over the other, or how both XDR and SIEM can work together in a security architecture.

“SIEM and XDR provide value in two different but potentially complementary ways, with SIEM having had its genesis in compliance and evolving to serve as a broader threat and operational risk platform, while XDR had its genesis specifically focused on threats and provides a platform for deep and narrower threat detection and response.

Organizations seeking a threat-oriented detection and response solution that do not have wider compliance and operational requirements may wish to consider XDR solutions.” – Andrew Hollister, LogRhythm Deputy CISO

Per Hollister’s comment, XDR and SIEM both have powerful benefits, but whether your team invests in one over the other, truly depends on your goals, resources, architecture, and highest priorities. Now that we understand their differences, let’s explore an example of how XDR and SIEM technologies may work harmoniously.

A CISO at a large healthcare enterprise manages a complex security stack with a diverse set of vendors. The organization must adhere to numerous regulatory standards, compliance mandates, and reporting requirements. The SOC team needs better threat detection and visibility across the hybrid IT environment with data centers and clouds.

To overcome these challenges, the team integrates XDR with their SIEM. XDR provides real-time visibility and the SIEM provides forensic search, data archival, and customization for compliance. Together, the combination of strategies creates a more robust and mature security posture. With XDR, fewer contextualized alerts are sent to the SIEM for prioritized investigations.

Is there a logical journey to acquiring security technology?

In some instances, yes, but there is not a standard to acquiring one solution first over another.

“You don’t buy one and automatically go on this linear upgrade path to acquiring the other. But in certain organizations, it makes sense to start off on a journey. Where do you place your emphasis and your requirement? Whether you start with EDR, NDR, or XDR comes down to resources available and your ability to implement these technologies and then monitor them for response purposes.

If an organization has sufficient resources in place and a broad set of requirements (e.g., compliance and reporting, security, and operational monitoring requirements), it usually starts with XDR. Then as its requirements grow, it upgrades to SIEM. But some organizations start with EDR or NDR and then progress to XDR and later up to SIEM. It depends on the customer.” – Jonathan Zulberg, LogRhythm VP of Filed Engineering

How to choose if EDR, NDR, XDR, or SIEM is right for you

Security technology like EDR, NDR, XDR, and SIEM can help security operations teams reduce risk and bridge gaps in visibility, detection, and response. It’s just as important to note that although acquiring security technology may help you with modernizing your SOC strategy, it’s not always the answer to solving your challenges. If your team cannot support onboarding, managing, and continuously validating data, then you will only cause more issues. If you are considering investing in cybersecurity technology, here’s LogRhythm’s consultative approach on the matter.

“We try to drive our customers away from buzzwords and help them understand what benefit these technologies will bring them. Sometimes a technology will not benefit you, and there’s no point in trying it. It will just add to your overhead in terms of the operational management. We become a trusted adviser to our customers and articulate the value that each one of these solutions brings. We unravel the needs of our customers, and then align the correct solution to mitigate their problems.” – Jonathan Zulberg, LogRhythm VP of Filed Engineering

Everyone’s path looks to improving security looks different. You can build on the foundation of current tools, processes, and security controls to get to that next level of maturity. If you do add a platform to your security arsenal, then you must ensure it meets the needs of your team, while aligning to your business’ objectives.

To learn more about EDR, NDR, XDR, and SIEM, and how these technologies may or may not fit into your security portfolio, download the Alphabet soup e-Book. If you’re ready to talk to a LogRhythm expert and explore your custom use cases, contact us here.